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The Discovery of Witches—An Entertaining Coven

In this Sundance three-season series, we see a time-travel saga of witches and magic that is part Harry Potter and part Lord of the Rings.  A tale of intense rivalry between different magical beings unfolds:  Witches, vampires, and demons are pitted against each other not only to uncover the sacred magical primer, but also to find the genetic code by which powerful witches have dominated the force field of magic.  The dangers cross several millennia, from the 1590s when witches are being hunted and religious extremists commit unspeakable crimes to the present day at Oxford.

Based on the best-selling All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness, an academic historian of science and medieval alchemy, The Discovery of Witches delivers a drama that is part pseudo-academic with the main character—Diana Bishop, (newcomer Theresa Palmer)–as a reluctant American historian (and witch), who accidentally conjures up the ancient primer.  Unaware of the intense animosity among witches, vampires, and demons, Diana unintentionally becomes involved in the competing magical communities who desire to acquire the text. 

Enter fellow historian and geneticist, Matthew Clermont (Matthew Goode of Downton Abbey), a handsome rival to Diana, who quickly becomes her ally.  However, he is also a vampire so what underground minefields lie ahead for them?

Magical, supernatural worlds are not of major interest to this reviewer.  But, The Discovery of Witches touches upon misogyny, discrimination of different “species” or “tribes” and “interspecies marriage” (another name for miscegenation perhaps?)  And that is what maintains this viewer’s interest, even when the plot sags a bit, or the main characters do something predictable.

The cast is excellent, the special effects often astounding, and the two main actors—Theresa Palmer and Matthew Goodelook like they are truly enjoying performing in this period fantasy piece.  Highly entertaining for the Harry Potter fandom within all of us!

Availability:  Netflix DVD; available on streaming Sundance and AMC+

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